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GOD TOLD ME TO (BLU RAY) (1976)
Published by David Carter on 2015/3/1 (842 reads)
Directed by Larry Cohen
Review by David Carter
Released by Blue Underground
Running Time: 79 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: 7.1 or Mono DTS-HD English, 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX English/English, French, and Spanish Subtitles
Region Code: 1, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
16:9 Enhanced: Yes
Special Features: Commentary by Larry Cohen, Interviews with Cohen, star Tony Lo Bianco, and SFX artist Steve Neill, theatrical trailers & TV Spots, still gallery
Trailer Online: Yes
Short Version: Cohenís mind-bending masterpiece
Few exploitation directors can lay claim to a body of work as extraordinarily bizarre as that of Larry Cohen. With all of the imagination of a Jess Franco but with twice the talent, Cohenís work, particularly in the 1970s, was unlike anything else to make its way through drive-ins and grindhouses. Cohen began the decade with the genre-defying blaxploitation film BONE before delivering the one-two punch of BLACK CAESAR and HELL UP IN HARLEM, two of blaxploitationís most revered films. Nothing in those three movies prepared audiences for the 1974/1977 film ITíS ALIVE, however. Cohenís grotesque killer infant film shocked audiences and drew them to the theatre in droves, spawning two sequels and a remake. Cohen didnít slow down in the 1980s, releasing the winged-monster film Q and the cult classic killer yogurt film THE STUFF in 1985.
As impressively surreal as most of Cohenís oeuvre is, the pinnacle of his weirdness has to be 1976ís GOD TOLD ME TO, now available on Blu Ray from Blue Underground. The film opens as a sniper perches on a rooftop water tower and begins randomly shooting the citizens of New York. This detail is an adaptation of the real-life Charles Whitman murders, and it is the final aspect of the film that has any basis in reality. Detective Peter Nicholas scales the water tower to confront the shooter in an attempt to gain the manís trust enough to find out why he did it. The shooter gives the devout Catholic Peter an answer which he never expected to hear, ďGod told me to.Ē
The phrase haunts the veteran cop but he has little time to ruminate on it as a rash of ďGod told me toĒ murders paralyzes the city. Peterís obsession with the stopping the crimes leads to his suspension from the force after breaking a gag order from higher ups who want to keep the meaning behind the crimes quiet. His investigation leads him to search for a mysterious man, Bernard Phillips, who may have some connection to the crimes. To Peterís surprise, Phillips finds him; or rather, his disciples find him. Phillips is the ďGodĒ referred to by the murderers, and his mysterious powers and connection to Peter are even more shocking that the mass murders heís unleashed on New York.
GOD TOLD ME TO is an engrossing film. What begins as a simple crime/horror film evolves into something much more that is no less captivating than it was nearly forty years ago upon release. I wonít spoil the plot for you, but at the heart of the film is Peterís crisis of faith. A devout Catholic for his entire life, Peter is forced to reconsider his concept of God and, later, his concept of himself. This relatable idea serves as the filmís foundation and allows Cohen to take the remainder of the plot in a variety of increasingly insane directions. Certainly one of Cohenís better efforts and likely one of the strongest exploitation films of the seventies.
Blue Underground has pulled out all the stops for their Blu Ray release of GOD TOLD ME TO. Cohen fans will be pleased to find an audio commentary track and two question and answer featurettes. GOD TOLD ME TO became a cult classic because of a brief, blink-and-youíll-miss-it appearance by comedian Andy Kaufman. Those who tracked the film down solely for that purpose were doubtlessly drawn in by one of the most unique films of the seventies. The Kaufman angle is now only a footnote to the film, as GOD TOLD ME TO is finally receiving the recognition it deserves on its own merits.
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